Neuromuscular Dentistry

In the past, dentistry has primarily focused on the health and condition of the teeth and the gums. However a more holistic approach is to examine the links between what is going on in the mouth and how that relates to, and affects, the rest of the body’s functions. Neuromuscular dentistry is a branch of dentistry that looks closely at the interdependent relationship between the teeth, muscles, and jaw joints, and the disruptions that occur when they are not working together in harmony.

Muscles + Joints + Teeth = NEUROMUSCULAR DENTISTRY

Neuromuscular Dentistry is a term that has been applied to the additional consideration of the “second & third” dimensions” – muscles and Jaw Joints

How to Choose the Right Bite

Traditional dentistry is based on making sure that after any dental treatment you are able to close your mouth properly and bite the way you normally do. However this means that what is being assessed is the way you normally bite, but not whether your bite is normal, or the best bite.

The approach of neuromuscular dentistry is slightly different. It focuses on the relationship between your teeth, muscles and jaw joints, to determine whether your jaw is properly aligned and your bite optimised.

In other words, your normal bite (or occlusion) may not be your ideal bite. This is important because over time, a bad bite (or malocclusion) can lead to jaw joint problems, muscle tension, headaches and other symptoms that are often associated with a condition known as temporomandibular disorder (or TMD).

At Holistic Dental we have a number of practitioners who are well versed and experienced in neuromuscular dentistry. Using state-of-the art technologies, they can evaluate your bite and, if required, develop a treatment plan to optimise it. This will help ensure you have the best foundation for any restorative dental work, and also relieve the pain and dysfunction that is often a side effect of a bad bite.

Why it is Important to Choose the Correct Bite?

Which are the Causes of Bad Bite?

Impacts of a Bad Bite on Your Teeth

How Neuromuscular Dentistry Can Help to Achieve an Optimal Bite?

Why it is Important to Choose the Correct Bite?

In dental terms, your ‘bite’ or ‘occlusion’ refers to the way your upper and lower teeth come together when you chew, swallow or are resting.

Even though you may not be aware of it, every time you close your mouth, it closes to the same position. This is the point where your teeth fit together best. Whether it’s a good fit or a bad fit, you close to this position because it provides your jaw with the best available support and stability. Closing to this position is an automatic response that occurs without thinking.

Unlike the other joint systems in the body, which all have just two components (the joint and the muscles that move the joint), your jaw has three components that interact with each other. They are:

  • the temporomandibular (jaw) joint (TMJ)
  • the jaw muscles
  • the teeth

If your bite doesn’t provide good support and stability to the jaw, your TMJ and its associated muscles and soft tissue are placed under stress. Over time, this can result in pain and dysfunction that impacts different areas of the body – not just your mouth and jaws.

Part of the reason for this, is that a number of muscles groups are involved with the different ways we use the jaw. For example, when you open your jaw, you are using muscles that are located in your neck. In contrast, the muscles that hold your jaw and prevent it from falling open extend through the cheeks and up toward your forehead. Similarly, the muscles used for chewing are in the cheek area. (When you eat something tough, or put too much food into the mouth at once, it’s not uncommon to end up with aching cheeks.)

The more support and stability your bite offers to your jaw, the less stress you place on the TMJ and muscles.

Impacts of a Bad Bite on Your Teeth

A bad bite can damage the ligaments and bones that keep your teeth in place, and force the muscles of the head, neck and jaw joint to work overtime. In addition to pain, such stress can result lead to variety of functional problems including:

  • Tooth loss
  • Chronic headaches
  • Facial pain
  • Painful jaw joints
  • Noises or clicking sounds from the jaw joint
  • Difficulty open the mouth
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Chewing problems
  • Tension or pain in the muscles of the neck and upper back

Many of these symptoms are indicators of a group of conditions that are referred to as ‘temporomandibular joint disorder’, or TMD.

Which are the Causes of Bad Bite?

A bad bite, or malocclusion, can be the result of numerous factors, including:

The size of your jaw and teeth is often inherited and can be the reason for uneven proportions, such as large teeth causing overcrowding in a small jaw, or small teeth that don’t properly fill the space available in a larger jaw.

Many malocclusions start in infancy through activities such as thumb-sucking or tongue thrusting (placing the tongue against the teeth while swallowing), as well as the use of non-orthodontic pacifiers or prolonged bottle feeding. Depending on the force, intensity and duration of the activity, any object placed in the mouth can influence the development of the head and jaw bones, and impact the way the teeth grown and mature.

Poor dental hygiene can lead to gum disease and tooth decay, which in turn can result in tooth loss. If a lost tooth isn’t replaced, the remaining teeth will begin to shift their positions and thereby alter your bite. Similarly, ill-fitting dentures; broken crowns or restorations; and chipped or abnormally-shaped teeth, all have an adverse effect on occlusion.

An accident or blow to the side of the face can cause tooth loss or damage the jaw bone.

Recent research demonstrates a strong link between the soft modern diets of people in industrialised nations and changes in the growth and development of the lower jaw. In many people, this has resulted in jaws that are too short for the size of the teeth that need to be accommodated.

How Neuromuscular Dentistry Can Help to Achieve an Optimal Bite?

Neuromuscular dentistry considers the complex relationship between your teeth, the temporomandibular joints and the muscles that operate the jaw. The optimal bite position (or ‘neuromuscular occlusion’) is achieved when these three elements are working together in harmony.

Achieving a neuromuscular occlusion is vital to obtaining the best results in every major dental procedure, and can treat many different types of pain and dysfunction.

At Holistic Dental, our experienced neuromuscular practitioners use non-invasive computerised methods such as jaw-tracking and surface electromyography (which measures the activity of your jaw muscles) to evaluate your bite and determine whether your occlusion is optimal, or whether it needs to be adjusted.

Your bite may then be further evaluated using X-rays, while creating plaster casts of your teeth allows the tooth structure and arrangement to be further examined.

If your bite needs to be adjusted, the treatment will depend upon on the type of adjustment necessary. It also takes into consideration and the underlying reason for the bad bite. The treatment recommended by your Holistic Dental practitioner may include:

  • Wearing a neuromuscular orthotic or bite splint (which is a removable plastic appliance shaped like a mouthguard).
  • Orthodontics such as braces, bands or aligners that will straighten the teeth or bring them into line.
  • Dental restoration, which may range from simply filing down a high spot on a tooth that is the causing the malocclusion, through to full-mouth reconstruction.

To find out more about your bite or the techniques used in neuromuscular dentistry, talk to your Holistic Dental practitioner, or make an appointment to see one of our highly experienced neuromuscular dentists.